my 88 ford escort loading up with black smoke out the tailpipe
Sounds your engine is on its last leg mate! Seriously though, check out, check exhaust system. Take it to a shop to inspect, most will do it at no cost.
88 old Ford OBD 1 go to: https://www.freeautomechanic.com/diagnostictroblecodes7.html That page will give you how to test and the codes. Sounds like a fuel pressure regulator too me, but check the codes.
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU LET HER RIP?? ADD 1 BOTTLE OF zmax FUEL TREATMENT TO 1/3 TANK OF GASS AND RUN IT THRU THE GEARS PRETTY HARD 5000 GRAND RPM UNDER LOAD...A FEW TIMES...OK
How many miles on it? Have the O2 sensor(s) ever been replaced?
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